Home » Intelligent Design » New research points to a 40 million-year-old split between the ancestors of humans and orangutans

New research points to a 40 million-year-old split between the ancestors of humans and orangutans

Human prehistory has descended into a state of chaos which can only be described as farcical. New research, summarized in an October 2012 review by Aylwyn Scally and Richard Durbin (“Revising the human mutation rate: implications for the understanding human evolution” in Nature Reviews Genetics 13:745-753, doi:10.1038/nrg3295) suggests that the molecular clock used to date events in hominid prehistory may run more slowly than previously thought, and at variable speeds, throwing the timetable of evolutionary events into confusion.

The new research has staggering implications for the date of the split between the lineage leading to orangutans in Asia and the line leading to humans, chimps and gorillas in Africa: it’s been revised from 13-14 million years ago to anywhere from 34 to 46 million years ago – an impossible result that has researchers scratching their heads.

A report by Ann Gibbons (“Turning back the clock: slowing the pace of prehistory.” Science 338:189-191) exposes the massive uncertainty than now reigns in the field of physical anthropology:

“The mutation rates are so up in air,” said paleogeneticist Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, in August, when his team published big margins of error — from 170,000 to 700,000 years ago — for the date when our ancestors split from Neandertals and their close cousins, the Denisovans. As a result, the timing of some events in human origins is now “very murky,” says paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London. The ambiguity in the mutation rate affects a host of evolutionary and disease-related analyses, says paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin, Madison: “We can’t figure out how things happened if we don’t know when they happened.”

Before we go any further, let’s review the science underlying the molecular clock, which is used by paleoanthropologists to date events in our past. Matthew Cobb provides a handy summary in his post, Putting our DNA clock back, over at Why Evolution Is True:

The basic assumption behind the molecular clock is that mutations – changes in DNA – occur at a constant rate over time, and that the number of differences between two groups can therefore be turned into a figure based on the time since the two diverged. This phenomenon was first noticed in 1962 by Linus Pauling and Emile Zuckerkandl looking at differences in haemoglobin genes, then explicitly turned into a hypothesis the following year by Margoliash, before being fully developed in the 1970s by Allan Wilson. (It is in fact a bit more complicated, as the average generation time of a species has to be taken into account – the shorter the generation time, the higher the mutation rate.)

There are some important provisos to the clock – any stretch of DNA that is subject to selection, for example, is not going to be a very useful source of clock data, as genetic differences will tend to be removed by selection; many genes that are vital to organismal function are therefore highly conserved, showing few differences between groups. For this reason, scientists tend to use either ‘synonymous changes’ in DNA – these are ‘silent’ differences that do not cause any change in gene function (protein structure, gene regulation, or whatever) – or to use stretches of non-coding DNA, which appear to be not subject to natural selection and to evolve ‘neutrally’, just accumulating mutations with time.

As Ann Gibbons points out, the science behind molecular clock dating was relied on highly questionable assumptions, until very recently:

For the past 15 years, researchers have estimated the speed of the molecular clock by counting the mutational differences between humans and primates in matching segments of DNA, then using different species’ first appearances in the fossil record to estimate how long it took those mutations to accumulate. For example, the fossils of the oldest known orangutan ancestor are about 13 million years old, so DNA differences between humans and orangutans had about that long to accumulate. By doing similar calculations in many segments of DNA in various primates, researchers calculated an average rate of about one mutation per billion base pairs per year for humans and other apes…

But this method of calculating the mutation rate has drawbacks. For starters, it assumes that the fossil dates accurately record the first appearance of a species, but that can change with a new find. Second, there are no fossils of our closest living relatives: chimps and gorillas. Third, the method assumes that species split at the same time as their genes diverged, but in fact, genetic separation can be millions of years earlier than species divergence. Finally, the method assumes that mutation rates are similar across apes, although factors such as generation time—the average number of years between generations — affect the rate.

Now all that has changed:

With the recent advent of high-throughput sequencing methods, geneticists finally have been able to sequence enough whole genomes to calculate directly the number of mutations between trios of two parents and their child in large numbers of families. Eight studies in the past 3 years (and the 2003 study) have estimated a slower mutation rate, according to a review published online on 11 September in Nature Reviews Genetics by geneticists Aylwyn Scally and Richard Durbin of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K…

Remarkably, all the studies got about the same rate: 1.2 × 10^-8 mutations per generation at any given nucleotide site. That’s about 1 in 2.4 billion mutations per site per year (assuming an average generation time of 29 years) — and that’s less than half of the old, fossil-calibrated rate.

The new research has created an upheaval in the field of human evolution. The following table (adapted from Gibbons’ report) summarizes the old and the new molecular clock dates for some key events in human prehistory. As the reader can see, both the old and the new molecular clock are at odds with the fossil evidence on vital points.

Human-orangutan split
Fossil evidence
9 million–13 million years ago (Sivapithecus)
Old mutation rate
13 million–14 million years ago
New mutation rate
34 million–46 million years ago (Mismatch between fossils and molecular date)

Human-chimp split
Fossil evidence
4.1 million–7 million years ago (Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus, and Australopithecus)
Old mutation rate
4 million–7 million years ago
New mutation rate
8 million–10 million years ago (Mismatch between fossils and molecular date)

Homo sapiens-Neandertal split
Fossil evidence
350,000–600,000 years ago (Homo heidelbergensis), 200,000 years ago (Neandertals)
Old mutation rate
250,000–350,000 years ago (Mismatch between fossils and molecular date)
New mutation rate
400,000–600,000 years ago

Out-of-Africa migration
Fossil evidence
125,000–80,000 years ago (archaic Homo sapiens)
Old mutation rate
Less than 70,000 years ago (Mismatch between fossils and molecular date)
New mutation rate
90,000–130,000 years ago

While the new molecular clock seems to give more accurate dates than the old clock for the more recent events in human prehistory, such as the split between Homo sapiens and Neandertal man and the migration of our ancestors out of Africa, it goes wildly astray for earlier events in our past. For instance, it places the human-orangutan split at 34-46 million years ago – which is a lot earlier than the date when apes diverged from monkeys, and about the same time as when Old World and New World monkeys diverged. Paleoanthropologists are not pleased. “A human-orangutan split at 40 million years is absolutely crazy,” says David Begun of the University of Toronto.

So how are scientists explaining the awkward dates implied by the new molecular clock? Scally and Durbin, in their report in Nature Reviews Genetics, suggest that the mutation rate was faster early on in primate evolution. Than, they say, it slowed in the African apes. After that, it may have slowed down even more in human evolution. Commenting on Scally and Durbin’s proposal, Harvard University population geneticist David Reich agrees that some slowdown did occur in the great apes. Nevertheless, in a supplement to a recent paper he and his research team published (Nature Genetics, 44, 1161-1165 (2012), doi:10.1038/ng.2398), he argues that the scenario proposed by Scally and Durbin is extremely unlikely:

However, this scenario also requires us to hypothesize a combination of unlikely events: (a) the slowdown would need to have been coincidental in both lineages to explain the observations, and (b) the slowdown would also have to have been extraordinarily dramatic: about 3-fold in both lineages in the period ancestral to human-chimpanzee divergence to produce as extreme an effect as is observed. (page 66) (Emphases mine – VJT.)

Reich himself believes that the new molecular clock methods aren’t picking up all the mutations, which is why he believes they’re getting an artificially slow mutation rate. Reich, Stefansson, graduate student James Sun of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and several other researchers have recently co-authored a study of their own (Nature Genetics, 44, 1161-1165 (2012), doi:10.1038/ng.2398) which used a different method, based on micro-satellite DNA, or small pieces of DNA which vary in the number of times they repeat, and which have a higher mutation rate than DNA nucleotides, making it easier to pick up all their new mutations. After converting the microsatellite mutation rates back to a base pair mutation rate, Reich and his team came up with a figure of 1 in 1.2 billion to 1 in 2.0 billion per year, compared with the figure of 1 in 2.4 billion mutations per site per year yielded by the new molecular clock studies. The rates proposed by Reich’s team would put the split between humans and chimpanzees at about 3.7 million to 6.6 million years ago, compared with a date of to 8 to 10 million years ago indicated by the new molecular clock. If Reich and his team are correct, the human-orangutan split would have occurred between 9.8 and 17.5 million years ago, or 2.65 times earlier than the human-chimp split. But Reich’s proposal faces problems of its own: it would imply that Sahelanthropus, and possibly also Orrorin and Ardipithecus, are not on the line leading to human beings, as anthropologists currently believe.

As Gibbons wryly observes in her article: “So no matter how researchers calculate the mutation rate directly, they can’t accommodate all the fossil dates.”

I was therefore puzzled when Matthew Cobb ended his post on the new molecular clock over at Why Evolution Is True, on an upbeat note:

A lot of unknowns remain – in particular the issue of estimating generation time in prehistoric populations, as well as the lack of population-level data for prehistoric groups (e.g. Neanderthals or Denisovans). But the increasing richness of molecular data are producing ever more refined estimates of our past. And that is the power of science – nothing is taken as fixed, knowledge changes and increases, in a uniquely progressive way, enabling us to revise and refine our understanding, and even to reject what we previously thought to be true. Indeed, there is grandeur in this view of life.

All I can say is: if this is what Cobb calls good news, what would he consider bad news? I’d invite him to consider again the four-fold uncertainty in the date of the split between Homo sapiens and Neandertal man: anywhere from 170,000 to 700,000 years ago. Or let him consider the near six-fold uncertainty in the date of the human-orangutan split: anywhere from 8 to 46 million years ago. Is this what Cobb calls progress?

And while I’m writing on the subject of orangutans, I’d also like to ask my readers to ponder the following question: why is it that humans share at least 28 unique physical characteristics with orangutans, but only two with chimps and seven with gorillas, despite the fact that we’re genetically closer to chimps and gorillas?

I’d like to close with a quote from Chesterton:

“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” (Autobiography. Collected Works Vol. 16, p. 212)

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

52 Responses to New research points to a 40 million-year-old split between the ancestors of humans and orangutans

  1. 29 years per generation? Is that a typo? Female chimps and orangutans can reproduce at 10. Perhaps earlier.

    Why are they “(assuming an average generation time of 29 years)”? What am I missing?

    Humans? 29 seems a tad long for humans too.

    The point is if the generation time is halved that pulls the numbers either to a match or much closer.

    VJT:

    why is it that humans share at least 28 unique physical characteristics with orangutans, but only two with chimps and seven with gorillas, despite the fact that we’re genetically closer to chimps and gorillas?

    Because it ain’t necessarily about the genetics. It’s the way the genetics are used. Yeah baby, I’ze knowz my evolution.

    Obvioulsy the orangutans’ environment/ fitness lanscape function thing, was such that it drove the formation of those characteristics, in a non-random feed-back hackey-sack, kind of way. And humans play hackey-sack, so there ya go.

  2. “Human prehistory has descended into a state of chaos which can only be described as farcical.”

    Not just humans. I read the other day that a number of studies on the genomes of falcons have shown that they’re apparently more closely related to warblers than they are to hawks.

    Go figure.

  3. Based on the evidence of the quoted paper:

    1. Can you provide any evidence that contradicts common ancestry of the great ape lineage?

    2. Do you propose, on the basis of the paper, an alternative phylogenetic structure (alternative to common ancestry) to explain the observed common embryological, developmental, fossil and genetic evidence shared by the ape clade?

    4. Does the paper provide any evidence that humans do not fit inside the currently accepted phylogeny of the ape clade?

    5. Do humans fit within any phylogenetic structure that you infer from the paper you quote?

  4. timothya-

    Is there are genetic evidence that says the physical transformations required (for humans to be descended from knucle-walkers/ quadrapeds) are even possible?

  5. timothya,

    The Gorilla Who Broke the Tree – Doug Axe PhD. – March 2012
    Excerpt: Well, the recent publication of the gorilla genome sequence shows that the expected pattern just isn’t there. Instead of a nested hierarchy of similarities, we see something more like a mosaic. According to a recent report [1], “In 30% of the genome, gorilla is closer to human or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other…”
    That’s sufficiently difficult to square with Darwin’s tree that it ought to bring the whole theory into question. And in an ideal world where Darwinism is examined the way scientific theories ought to be examined, I think it would. But in the real world things aren’t always so simple.
    http://www.biologicinstitute.o.....e-the-tree

    A False Trichotomy
    Excerpt: The common chimp (Pan troglodytes) and human Y chromosomes are “horrendously different from each other”, says David Page,,, “It looks like there’s been a dramatic renovation or reinvention of the Y chromosome in the chimpanzee and human lineages.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....richotomy/

    From Jerry Coyne, More Table-Pounding, Hand-Waving – May 2012
    Excerpt: “More than 6 percent of genes found in humans simply aren’t found in any form in chimpanzees. There are over fourteen hundred novel genes expressed in humans but not in chimps.”
    Jerry Coyne – ardent and ‘angry’ neo-Darwinist – professor at the University of Chicago in the department of ecology and evolution for twenty years. He specializes in evolutionary genetics.

    New Genes, New Brain – October 2011
    Excerpt: “This is one of the first studies to look at the role of completely novel genes” in primate brain development,,, A bevy of genes known to be active during human fetal and infant development first appeared at the same time that the prefrontal cortex,,, Finally, 54 of the 280 genes found to be unique to humans were also highly expressed in the developing prefrontal cortex,,,, “We were very shocked that there were that many new genes that were upregulated in this part of the brain,” said Long, who added that he was also taken aback by synchronicity of the origin of the genes and the development of novel brain structures.,,, (From the PLoS article, author’s summary: We found these genes are scattered across the whole genome, demonstrating that they are generated by many independent events,,, Our data reveal that evolutionary change in the development of the human brain happened at the protein level by gene origination,,)
    http://the-scientist.com/2011/.....new-brain/

    The Fate of Darwinism: Evolution After the Modern Synthesis – David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber – 2011
    Excerpt: We trace the history of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, and of genetic Darwinism generally, with a view to showing why, even in its current versions, it can no longer serve as a general framework for evolutionary theory. The main reason is empirical. Genetical Darwinism cannot accommodate the role of development (and of genes in development) in many evolutionary processes.,,,
    http://www.springerlink.com/co.....03g3t7002/

    Experimental Evolution in Fruit Flies (35 years of trying to force fruit flies to evolve in the laboratory fails, spectacularly) – October 2010
    Excerpt: “Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles.,,, “This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Anthony Long, the primary investigator.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....ruit_flies

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    Excerpt: But there are solid empirical grounds for arguing that changes in DNA alone cannot produce new organs or body plans. A technique called “saturation mutagenesis”1,2 has been used to produce every possible developmental mutation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster),3,4,5 roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans),6,7 and zebrafish (Danio rerio),8,9,10 and the same technique is now being applied to mice (Mus musculus).11,12 None of the evidence from these and numerous other studies of developmental mutations supports the neo-Darwinian dogma that DNA mutations can lead to new organs or body plans–because none of the observed developmental mutations benefit the organism.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....38811.html

    More from Ann Gauger on why humans didn’t happen the way Darwin said – July 2012
    Excerpt: Each of these new features probably required multiple mutations. Getting a feature that requires six neutral mutations is the limit of what bacteria can produce. For primates (e.g., monkeys, apes and humans) the limit is much more severe. Because of much smaller effective population sizes (an estimated ten thousand for humans instead of a billion for bacteria) and longer generation times (fifteen to twenty years per generation for humans vs. a thousand generations per year for bacteria), it would take a very long time for even a single beneficial mutation to appear and become fixed in a human population.
    You don’t have to take my word for it. In 2007, Durrett and Schmidt estimated in the journal Genetics that for a single mutation to occur in a nucleotide-binding site and be fixed in a primate lineage would require a waiting time of six million years. The same authors later estimated it would take 216 million years for the binding site to acquire two mutations, if the first mutation was neutral in its effect.
    Facing Facts
    But six million years is the entire time allotted for the transition from our last common ancestor with chimps to us according to the standard evolutionary timescale. Two hundred and sixteen million years takes us back to the Triassic, when the very first mammals appeared. One or two mutations simply aren’t sufficient to produce the necessary changes— sixteen anatomical features—in the time available. At most, a new binding site might affect the regulation of one or two genes.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....rwin-said/

    Missing Transitional Fossils in the Hominid Fossil Record – Casey Luskin – Sept. 12, 2012 – podcast
    Description: On this episode of ID the Future, listen to a short segment of a recent presentation Casey Luskin gave on the hominid fossil record. While popular media often reports that the fossil record is complete and conclusive, the technical scientific literature reveals this to be false. In actuality, human-like fossils and ape-like fossil are clearly distinct from one another, and the so-called transitional fossil record is highly fragmented.
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_42-07_00

    How do Theistic Evolutionists Explain the Fossil Record and Human Origins? – Casey Luskin – September 14, 2012
    Excerpt: In six recent articles (see the links at right), I have argued that the fossil record does not support the evolution of ape-like species into human-like species. Rather, hominin fossils generally fall into two distinct groups: ape-like species and human-like species, with a large, unbridged gap between them.,,, Third, not all paleontologists agree with Kidder that the lack of transitional fossils is simply the result of the unsophisticated (and all-too-easy) excuse the fossil record is poor. Consider what paleontologist Niles Eldredge and paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersal (who are both committed evolutionists) co-wrote in a book on human origins:
    “The record jumps, and all the evidence shows that the record is real: the gaps we see reflect real events in life’s history — not the artifact of a poor fossil record.”
    (Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution, p. 59 (NY: Columbia University Press, 1982).)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....64301.html

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  6. timothya:

    1. Can you provide any evidence that contradicts common ancestry of the great ape lineage?

    What would such evidence even look like?

  7. Hi timothya,

    Thank you for your post. I don’t contest the evidence for the common ancestry of humans and apes, or of apes in general. What I DO contest is the notion that neo-Darwinian evolution is adequate to explain the suite of changes in the human line, in the last few million years.

    The current consensus as to precisely how and to what degree humans and great apes are related, is shown in the following diagram:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....inidae.PNG

    There is however a minority view (championed by John Grehan and Jeffrey Schwartz) that orangutans are the closest relatives of human beings. See the following articles:
    Evolution of the second orangutan: phylogeny and biogeography of hominid origins by John Grehan and Jeffrey Schwartz, Journal of Biogeography (2009) 36, 1823–1844.

    Orangutans May Be Closest Human Relatives, Not Chimps . Commentary on Grehan and Schwartz’s paper.

    Humans More Related To Orangutans Than Chimps, Study Suggests . Report on a 2009 study by Grehan and Schwartz.)

    The ?rst humans, the second orangutan and the third chimpanzee . (Critical review of Grehan and Schwartz’s 2009 book.)

    Hope that helps.

  8. timothya,

    I do contest the claim that humans and apes are related via common ancestry and say the evidence, the same evidence used for common ancestry, points to a common design.

    However I do not categorically deny the possibility of human/ ape commn ancestry, it’s just that without first assuming it to be true, it is an untestable claim. But that may change someday and if I am alive when that happens, I will definitely listen.

  9. Joe (8):

    However I do not categorically deny the possibility of human/ ape commn ancestry, it’s just that without first assuming it to be true, it is an untestable claim. But that may change someday and if I am alive when that happens, I will definitely listen.

    Common ancestry predicts that you will not find any Australopithicus, Ardipithecus, or Kenyanthropus fossils outside of Africa. We have not found any outside of Africa. If not proof is that not a strong argument for common ancestry?

    And does that not make common descent falsifiable?

  10. Here is how neo-Darwinian evolution avoids falsification from the fossil record;

    “What Would Disprove Evolution?” – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Fossils are found in the “wrong place” all the time (either too early, or too late). Paleontological theory, however, allows for such devices as “ghost lineages” to repair the damage; see ENV’s coverage here and here. (links on the site)
    Again, discordance between molecular and anatomical phylogenies is commonplace in systematics; see here.(link on the site)
    But we expect Coyne is able to handle these anomalies via his shock-absorbing adjective “complete,” which allows an indefinitely large range of possibilities, short of “complete” discordance (whatever that means).
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....61891.html

    Seeing Ghosts in the Bushes (Part 2): How Is Common Descent Tested? – Paul Nelson – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Fig. 6. Multiple possible ad hoc or auxiliary hypotheses are available to explain lack of congruence between the fossil record and cladistic predictions. These may be employed singly or in combination. Common descent (CD) is thus protected from observational challenge.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....31061.html

    The Fossil Record and Falsifiable Predictions For ID – Casey Luskin – Audio
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....6_42-07_00

    You Won’t Believe How Evolutionists Say These Two Major Contradictions Cancel Each Other Out – March 2012
    Excerpt: Evolutionists say without evolution nothing makes sense in biology, but it seems that with evolution nothing makes sense in biology.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....s-say.html

    Here is how evolutionists avoid falsification from the biogeographical data of finding numerous and highly similar species in widely separated locations:

    More Biogeographical Conundrums for Neo-Darwinism – March 2010
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....32471.html

    The Case of the Mysterious Hoatzin: Biogeography Fails Neo-Darwinism Again – Casey Luskin – November 5, 2011
    Excerpt: If two similar species separated by thousands of kilometers across oceans cannot challenge common descent, what biogeographical data can? The way evolutionists treat it, there is virtually no biogeographical data that can challenge common descent even in principle. If that’s the case, then how can biogeography be said to support common descent in the first place?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....52571.html

    Here is another way neo-Darwinists avoid falsification from the evidence:

    Convergence Convenience – October 8, 2012
    Excerpt: Evolutionary theory has a classification scheme that cannot lose. Darwin’s original tree diagram described “divergent evolution,” a process beginning with speciation followed by the accumulation of variations that make the two branches more and more dissimilar over time. Animals with similar structures on the same branch are said to have “homologous” traits, because they derive from the same common ancestor. But the living world is filled with traits that resemble each other on different branches. What caused that? Ah, the evolutionist replies: those traits are due to “convergent evolution.” The similarities are “analogous” traits, because they do not derive from the same common ancestor. With this classification scheme, evolution explains everything: if similar animals are related, they evolved; if they are unrelated, they evolved. Is this a description of reality, or rather a convenient strategy for rendering evolution immune from falsification? Here are some recent examples of “convergent evolution” from the literature. (7 examples of ‘just so’ stories are cited),,,
    ,,,The Wikipedia entry on “Convergent Evolution” shows that the concept has undergone a bit of taxonomic diversification itself: there’s functional convergence, homoplasy, synapomorphy, parallel evolution, re-evolution and evolutionary relay. Convergence might be detected at the morphological level or at the molecular level. As for causes of convergent evolution, the article claims that animals with similar niches are likely to evolve similar equipment. And yet that can hardly be a “law of nature,” because many organisms occupy similar niches without “convergent” traits. Thus, they are divergent except when they are convergent – an explanation that explains opposite concepts. (and is thus impossible to falsify, i.e. heads I win, tails you lose!))
    http://crev.info/2012/10/convergence-convenience/

    related notes:

    “these australopith specimens (Lucy) can be accommodated with the range of intraspecific variation of African apes”
    Nature 443 (9/2006), p.296

    “The australopithecines (Lucy) known over the last several decades from Olduvai and Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat, are now irrevocably removed from a place in a group any closer to humans than to African apes and certainly from any place in a direct human lineage.”
    Charles Oxnard, former professor of anatomy at the University of Southern California Medical School, who subjected australopithecine fossils to extensive computer analysis; http://creationwiki.org/Australopithecines

    Israeli Researchers: ‘Lucy’ is not direct ancestor of humans”; Apr 16, 2007
    The Mandibular ramus morphology (lower jaw bone) on a recently discovered specimen of Australopithecus afarensis closely matches that of gorillas. This finding was unexpected given that chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans.,,,its absence in modern humans cast doubt on the role of Au. afarensis as a modern human ancestor.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....cestral_li

    “The australopithecine (Lucy) skull is in fact so overwhelmingly simian (ape-like) as opposed to human that the contrary proposition could be equated to an assertion that black is white.”
    Lord Solly Zuckerman – Chief scientific advisor to British government and leading zoologist

    Ardi: The Human Ancestor Who Wasn’t? – May 2010
    Excerpt: “[White] showed no evidence that Ardi is on the human lineage,” Sarmiento says. “Those characters that he posited as relating exclusively to humans also exist in apes and ape fossils that we consider not to be in the human lineage.”
    http://www.time.com/time/healt.....15,00.html

    Later Hominins: The Australopithecine Gap – Casey Luskin – August 2012
    Excerpt: Paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello, who served as head of the anthropology department at University College London, states that when it comes to locomotion, “australopithecines are like apes, and the Homo group are like humans. Something major occurred when Homo evolved, and it wasn’t just in the brain.” The “something major” that occurred was the abrupt appearance of the human body plan — without direct evolutionary precursors in the fossil record.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62891.html

    “Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species….Homo sapiens is as distinctive an entity as exists on the face of the Earth, and should be dignified as such instead of being adulterated with every reasonably large-brained hominid fossil that happened to come along.”
    Anthropologist Ian Tattersall
    (curator at the American Museum of Natural History)

  11. Here is how neo-Darwinian evolution avoids falsification from the fossil record;

    “What Would Disprove Evolution?” – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Fossils are found in the “wrong place” all the time (either too early, or too late). Paleontological theory, however, allows for such devices as “ghost lineages” to repair the damage; see ENV’s coverage here and here. (links on the site)
    Again, discordance between molecular and anatomical phylogenies is commonplace in systematics; see here.(link on the site)
    But we expect Coyne is able to handle these anomalies via his shock-absorbing adjective “complete,” which allows an indefinitely large range of possibilities, short of “complete” discordance (whatever that means).
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....61891.html

    Seeing Ghosts in the Bushes (Part 2): How Is Common Descent Tested? – Paul Nelson – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Fig. 6. Multiple possible ad hoc or auxiliary hypotheses are available to explain lack of congruence between the fossil record and cladistic predictions. These may be employed singly or in combination. Common descent (CD) is thus protected from observational challenge.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....31061.html

    The Fossil Record and Falsifiable Predictions For ID – Casey Luskin – Audio
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....6_42-07_00

    You Won’t Believe How Evolutionists Say These Two Major Contradictions Cancel Each Other Out – March 2012
    Excerpt: Evolutionists say without evolution nothing makes sense in biology, but it seems that with evolution nothing makes sense in biology.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....s-say.html

    Here is how evolutionists avoid falsification from the biogeographical data of finding numerous and highly similar species in widely separated locations:

    More Biogeographical Conundrums for Neo-Darwinism – March 2010
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....32471.html

    The Case of the Mysterious Hoatzin: Biogeography Fails Neo-Darwinism Again – Casey Luskin – November 5, 2011
    Excerpt: If two similar species separated by thousands of kilometers across oceans cannot challenge common descent, what biogeographical data can? The way evolutionists treat it, there is virtually no biogeographical data that can challenge common descent even in principle. If that’s the case, then how can biogeography be said to support common descent in the first place?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....52571.html

    Here is another way neo-Darwinists avoid falsification from the evidence:

    Convergence Convenience – October 8, 2012
    Excerpt: Evolutionary theory has a classification scheme that cannot lose. Darwin’s original tree diagram described “divergent evolution,” a process beginning with speciation followed by the accumulation of variations that make the two branches more and more dissimilar over time. Animals with similar structures on the same branch are said to have “homologous” traits, because they derive from the same common ancestor. But the living world is filled with traits that resemble each other on different branches. What caused that? Ah, the evolutionist replies: those traits are due to “convergent evolution.” The similarities are “analogous” traits, because they do not derive from the same common ancestor. With this classification scheme, evolution explains everything: if similar animals are related, they evolved; if they are unrelated, they evolved. Is this a description of reality, or rather a convenient strategy for rendering evolution immune from falsification? Here are some recent examples of “convergent evolution” from the literature. (7 examples of ‘just so’ stories are cited),,,
    ,,,The Wikipedia entry on “Convergent Evolution” shows that the concept has undergone a bit of taxonomic diversification itself: there’s functional convergence, homoplasy, synapomorphy, parallel evolution, re-evolution and evolutionary relay. Convergence might be detected at the morphological level or at the molecular level. As for causes of convergent evolution, the article claims that animals with similar niches are likely to evolve similar equipment. And yet that can hardly be a “law of nature,” because many organisms occupy similar niches without “convergent” traits. Thus, they are divergent except when they are convergent – an explanation that explains opposite concepts. (and is thus impossible to falsify, i.e. heads I win, tails you lose!))

    related notes:

    “these australopith specimens (Lucy) can be accommodated with the range of intraspecific variation of African apes”
    Nature 443 (9/2006), p.296

    “The australopithecines (Lucy) known over the last several decades from Olduvai and Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat, are now irrevocably removed from a place in a group any closer to humans than to African apes and certainly from any place in a direct human lineage.”
    Charles Oxnard, former professor of anatomy at the University of Southern California Medical School, who subjected australopithecine fossils to extensive computer analysis;

    Israeli Researchers: ‘Lucy’ is not direct ancestor of humans”; Apr 16, 2007
    The Mandibular ramus morphology (lower jaw bone) on a recently discovered specimen of Australopithecus afarensis closely matches that of gorillas. This finding was unexpected given that chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans.,,,its absence in modern humans cast doubt on the role of Au. afarensis as a modern human ancestor.
    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....cestral_li

    “The australopithecine (Lucy) skull is in fact so overwhelmingly simian (ape-like) as opposed to human that the contrary proposition could be equated to an assertion that black is white.”
    Lord Solly Zuckerman – Chief scientific advisor to British government and leading zoologist

    Ardi: The Human Ancestor Who Wasn’t? – May 2010
    Excerpt: “[White] showed no evidence that Ardi is on the human lineage,” Sarmiento says. “Those characters that he posited as relating exclusively to humans also exist in apes and ape fossils that we consider not to be in the human lineage.”
    http://www.time.com/time/healt.....15,00.html

    Later Hominins: The Australopithecine Gap – Casey Luskin – August 2012
    Excerpt: Paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello, who served as head of the anthropology department at University College London, states that when it comes to locomotion, “australopithecines are like apes, and the Homo group are like humans. Something major occurred when Homo evolved, and it wasn’t just in the brain.” The “something major” that occurred was the abrupt appearance of the human body plan — without direct evolutionary precursors in the fossil record.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62891.html

    “Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species….Homo sapiens is as distinctive an entity as exists on the face of the Earth, and should be dignified as such instead of being adulterated with every reasonably large-brained hominid fossil that happened to come along.”
    Anthropologist Ian Tattersall
    (curator at the American Museum of Natural History)

  12. Jerad:

    Common ancestry predicts that you will not find any Australopithicus, Ardipithecus, or Kenyanthropus fossils outside of Africa.

    Why? In what way is that a “prediction” of common ancestry?

    Also I was at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and I am sure they had such fossils there. Last I checked DC was outside of Africa. :) (sorry I couldn’t resist)

  13. Joe (11):

    Why? In what way is that a “prediction” of common ancestry?

    Since the common ancestor and the early parts of the descent lines are found in the same area of the same continent as you would expect if they were related. If apes and humans did not share a common ancestry then the early forms of each could be found far removed from each other.

    Also I was at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and I am sure they had such fossils there. Last I checked DC was outside of Africa. (sorry I couldn’t resist)

    :-) Some of what you saw might have been copies actually. Apparently lots of what’s on display are not originals. Kind of disappointing but I guess they can’t lets us rabble get close to the real stuff.

  14. Jerad:

    Since the common ancestor and the early parts of the descent lines are found in the same area of the same continent as you would expect if they were related.

    So they couldn’t move? No geological isolation, which occurs when they move? What drove the speciation events if they were all subject to the same fitness landscape function algorithm?

    Or perhaps you want to rethink that…

  15. Joe (13):

    So they couldn’t move? No geological isolation, which occurs when they move? What drove the speciation events if they were all subject to the same fitness landscape function algorithm?

    And they did move later. Orangutangs, which split off from the common line earlier moved. And the later hominids emigrated out of Africa. What drove the speciation? No way to know for sure without having been there. I live in England and until the last century many people never moved more than a few miles from the place they were born. The point being that geographic isolation can be quite short distances especially for less intelligent creatures. Not birds so much though. Some anthropologists hypothesise that humans evolved from the ‘tribes’ that spent more time on the plains than in the trees. Perhaps it was the uprights vs the ‘knuckle draggers’ as you put it. No way to know for sure. But, pretty clearly, both lines came from the same general area and developed in close proximity until some early humans found greener pastures. Some humans stayed. The apes got stuck and are now endangered partially ’cause they’re ‘trapped’ in their environmental niches. Too bad they can’t evolve on command eh? Within our lifetime some apes may not exist in the wild anymore. Makes me wish there was a designer who could intervene.

    Or perhaps you want to rethink that…

    Nah, I’m good.

  16. From the OP:

    So how are scientists explaining the awkward dates implied by the new molecular clock? Scally and Durbin, in their report in Nature Reviews Genetics, suggest that the mutation rate was faster early on in primate evolution. Than, they say, it slowed in the African apes. After that, it may have slowed down even more in human evolution. Commenting on Scally and Durbin’s proposal, Harvard University population geneticist David Reich agrees that some slowdown did occur in the great apes. /i>

    Let me translate this for you: they don’t have a clue as to what actually happened.

    Nor, likely, will they ever. Why? Because they’re wedded to neo-Darwinism, which can’t explain any of this (as vjtorley notes), and so they must twist facts and data until it has some chance (in their minds) of making sense.


  17. So they couldn’t move? No geological isolation, which occurs when they move? What drove the speciation events if they were all subject to the same fitness landscape function algorithm?

    And they did move later.

    Why not sooner? Your story tells me that this isn’t any prediction of common ancestry. As you said orangutans moved and they are tree dwellers and perhaps good swimmers at one time. :roll:

  18. I wonder if there is a likely upper limit and likely lower limit at which they would consider such mutation rates might occur? I think we should be told.

  19. Joe (16):

    Why not sooner? Your story tells me that this isn’t any prediction of common ancestry.

    I don’t know why they didn’t move earlier. No one does. It is consistent with common descent, i.e. genetic lines that have a common root will coexist geographically for some time. Look at your own family history. It’s not hard.

    As you said orangutans moved and they are tree dwellers and perhaps good swimmers at one time.

    Who can say? We weren’t there. If I asked you how and when your great-great-grandparents conceived your ancestor you’d have to make educated guesses. What else can you do? Look for evidence, clearly. Make intelligent guesses, of course. Know for sure .. . . uh huh. Keep dreaming.

  20. From a February article in Evolution News, today:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....56771.html

    Plus ca change…

  21. Mutation rates have been shown to increase plenty of times. In Dr. Lenski’s e coli experiment, 4 of the 12 strains had mutations that broke their DNA repair mechanisms which caused them to mutate faster.

    But have we ever observed a mutation that improved DNA repair?

  22. 22
    Kantian Naturalist

    This is a really interesting study! In the 1980s, I remember it was a major coup for genetic-based phylogenies when fossil evidence discounted Ramapithecus from being a hominid ancestor. (The problem, remember, was that Ramapithecus was about 10 million years old, and the genetic data indicated that hominids split off from other apes around 5 million years ago.) So when Ramapithecus was folded into Sivapithecus, the genetic phylogenies were seemingly vindicated. But it rests on this assumption that we’ve got a stable “molecular clock,” ticking away at a steady and easily-calculable rate, and I’ve worried about that assumption for a while. And unfortunately we can’t sample DNA from extinct species.

  23. My own family history- My mother’s parents came over from Italy. My dad’s, dad’s family came over from France via Canada- well I have a great, great, great grandmother who was a Micmac with roots in New Brunswick, CA. I don’t know much of anything about my dad’s mother- she died in the 1920s and he never talked about her, not to me anyway.

    My daughter has roots and relatives in Argentina and more relatives in Australia.

    Yeah, we’re pretty local…

  24. OT:
    Those ancient jawed fish had a mouthful of teeth, too – 10/17/2012
    Excerpt: “It has long been thought that the first jawed vertebrates were gummy — (they had) jaws without teeth, capturing prey by suction-feeding,” ,,,
    Donoghue and his colleagues analyzed 370-million-year-old fossils of a diverse and extinct group of armored fish known as placoderms, the first-known jawed vertebrates.,,,
    The placoderm teeth had components seen in modern teeth, such as dentin, the hard, dense bony tissue forming the bulk of the tooth beneath the enamel, and a pulp cavity, which creates dentin. “We show that the juveniles had teeth for processing and capturing prey before they were worn away in the adults,” Donoghue said.
    This discovery that the earliest jawed vertebrates were toothy suggests teeth evolved (were designed) along with or soon after jaws did.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49.....H9kUoYsE30

  25. Joe posted this:

    I do contest the claim that humans and apes are related via common ancestry and say the evidence, the same evidence used for common ancestry, points to a common design.

    Do you have any examples of common design from the assemblage of extant species (I mean examples that show that a “design intervention” actually occurred to cause the resultant phenotypes?

    Who, when, where, how and for what purpose would help me to understand your thinking.

  26. vjtorley posted this:

    Thank you for your post. I don’t contest the evidence for the common ancestry of humans and apes, or of apes in general. What I DO contest is the notion that neo-Darwinian evolution is adequate to explain the suite of changes in the human line, in the last few million years.

    I’m sorry, but on my reading, your post means that you do contest the common ancestry of the ape clade (including humans). If natural processes (according to you) are incapable of generating the observed variety of current ape types, then something other than common ancestry must have been involved.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    What was this something? When did it happen? In what way did it happen? Where can we find evidence of these non-common-ancestry events? By what agency? I will leave aside the question of the agency’s putative purpose, since that would be tendentious.

  27. timothya-

    Linnean taxonomy was based on the premise of a common design. Evos stole his idea and are now using it to support their “theory”.

    Do YOU have any examples of random mutations accumulating in such a way as to give rise to the changes required? No, you have nothing.

    When diod thos mutations occur? How many were required? You have NOTHING.

    Deal with it

  28. Joe posted this:

    Do YOU have any examples of random mutations accumulating in such a way as to give rise to the changes required? No, you have nothing.

    When diod thos mutations occur? How many were required? You have NOTHING.

    Deal with it

    Human chromosome 2.

    Explain it with design causes.

  29. timothya-

    What changes did HC2 bring about? Please be specific as to why natural selection favored that fusion.

    Also you did know that the fusion occurred in the human lineage and as such has NOTHING to do with common ancestry with chimps.

    HC@ from a design perspective:

    Even before the release of “Science and Human Origins” there has been an uproar over human chromosome 2, the alleged fusion of two other chromosomes (still found in other primates) and sharing a common ancestor with chimps. According to evos this was supposed to be a chromosomal fusion that occurred in some gamete and then got passed along- a random event.

    However if we look at it from a design perspective the randomness disappears. Why? Chromosome/ DNA packaging and chromosome territories.

    Ya see gene expression and regulation depend on both the packaging and the location of the chromosomes within the nucleus, ie chromosome territories. And if you have two different/ separate chromosomes then they can be packaged differently and ferried around separately also, meaning they can be separated and placed in different territories.

    So perhaps with humans it is required that the information never be separated. And the easiest way to accomplish that was by splicing the two together. Snip off the excess and splice.*

    The research would be to determine where HC2 resides in certain tissues and cells and during development and then compare with the two primate chromosomes for the same tissues/ cells and stages of development.

    So HC2 is explained as a design feature, for humans. It not only helps with reproductive isolation but it also allows for a different gene expression and regulation pattern necessary for the different requirements of humans.

    * it could also be that the two chimp chromosomes were the result of splitting HC2 into two separate chromosomes

  30. timothya you claim that if common ancestry were true (which I personally don’t find common ancestry to be true) that this supposed evidence for common ancestry would automatically imply that atheistic naturalism was true. Yet this is simply not the case. Common ancestry, even if true, could very well be driven by intelligence instead of by atheistic naturalism. Dr. Dembski makes this very point in his Conservation of Information paper:

    “LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information”:
    Excerpt: Though not denying Darwinian evolution or even limiting its role in the history of life, the Law of Conservation of Information shows that Darwinian evolution is inherently teleological. Moreover, it shows that this teleology can be measured in precise information-theoretic terms. http://evoinfo.org/publication.....ation-law/

    In fact Dr. Plantinga has pointed out that common ancestry (evolution) and naturalism don’t go well together at all and has used common ancestry to argue against the truthfulness of naturalism:

    Evolutionary argument against naturalism – Dr. Alvin Plantinga
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34AIo-xBh8

    Scientific Peer Review is in Trouble: From Medical Science to Darwinism – Mike Keas – October 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Survival is all that matters on evolutionary naturalism. Our evolving brains are more likely to give us useful fictions that promote survival rather than the truth about reality. Thus evolutionary naturalism undermines all rationality (including confidence in science itself). Renown philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued against naturalism in this way (summary of that argument is linked on the site:).
    Or, if your short on time and patience to grasp Plantinga’s nuanced argument, see if you can digest this thought from evolutionary cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, who baldly states:
    “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth; sometimes the truth is adaptive, sometimes it is not.”
    Steven Pinker, evolutionary cognitive psychologist, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 305.
    http://blogs.christianpost.com.....ism-12421/

    Evolutionists Are Now Saying Their Thinking is Flawed (But Evolution is Still a Fact) – Cornelius Hunter – May 2012
    Excerpt: But the point here is that these “researchers” are making an assertion (human reasoning evolved and is flawed) which undermines their very argument. If human reasoning evolved and is flawed, then how can we know that evolution is a fact, much less any particular details of said evolutionary process that they think they understand via their “research”?
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....their.html

    footnote:

    When a atheist claims something occurred ‘naturally’, to him this ‘naturally’ means that God was not involved in the ‘natural’ event in any way, shape, or form. But underlying this ‘naturalistic’ presupposition of the atheist is the belief that material particles of the universe are self-sustaining. Yet advances in quantum mechanics have undermined this ‘naturalistic’ belief and shown that the material particles of the universe are dependent on a transcendent, non-local, cause that is not limited by time or space. Theists have always held that God sustains reality in its existence:

    Quantum Mechanics has now been extended by Anton Zeilinger, and team, to falsify local realism (reductive materialism) without even using quantum entanglement to do it:

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    i.e. a transcendent, ‘non-local’, cause must now be supplied to explain exactly why material particles (photons in this instance) continue to exist in this universe

    verses and music:

    Acts 17:28
    For in him we live, and move, and have our being;

    Revelation 4:11
    “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

    Carrie Underwood with Vince Gill How Great thou Art – 720P HD – Standing Ovation!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLLMzr3PFgk

    supplemental notes:

    Epistemology – Why Should The Human Mind Even Be Able To Comprehend Reality? – Stephen Meyer – video – (Notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/32145998

    Design Thinking Is Hardwired in the Human Brain. How Come? – October 17, 2012
    Excerpt: “Even Professional Scientists Are Compelled to See Purpose in Nature, Psychologists Find.” The article describes a test by Boston University’s psychology department, in which researchers found that “despite years of scientific training, even professional chemists, geologists, and physicists from major universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Yale cannot escape a deep-seated belief that natural phenomena exist for a purpose” ,,,
    Most interesting, though, are the questions begged by this research. One is whether it is even possible to purge teleology from explanation.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65381.html

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 debate available on the site
    Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
    http://theresurgence.com/2012/.....-god-exist

  31. Joe posted this:

    So perhaps with humans it is required that the information never be separated. And the easiest way to accomplish that was by splicing the two together. Snip off the excess and splice.*

    Can I get this right? You are arguing that the “splicing event” was required in order to lead to the human lineage?

  32. timothya-

    What changes did HC2 bring about? Please be specific as to why natural selection favored that fusion.

    Can I get this right? You are arguing that the “splicing event” was required in order to lead to the human lineage?

    That is a possibility. Now answer my question or admit that you are a coward.

  33. Joe posted this:

    What changes did HC2 bring about? Please be specific as to why natural selection favored that fusion.

    Do you want to know where the biochemeical functions from the two unfused ancestral chromosomes ended up? Can’t help you unless you list what the functions actually were.

    Specifically, natural selection does not favour any particular future outcome (hint: NS is not teleological). NS simply filters out phenotypes that are less successful in the current environment.

    Once you understand this idea, we can move on to discussing actual science instead of your fantasy version.

  34. Ummm I have to back up a bit . . .

    Joe posted this:

    Also you did know that the fusion occurred in the human lineage and as such has NOTHING to do with common ancestry with chimps.

    Now there is your problem. Has it occurred to you that the fusion event might be one of the things that caused the divergence between the chimp and human lineages?

    There is all that supporting evidence about the contents of of the human chromosome 2 that map onto the unfused chromosomes in the chimp lineage. But that isn’t really evidence, is it?

    Hope that answers your question.

  35. timothya:

    Do you want to know where the biochemeical functions from the two unfused ancestral chromosomes ended up?

    Nope. I want to know what the fusion did and why it was favored enough to become fixed.

    Specifically, natural selection does not favour any particular future outcome (hint: NS is not teleological).

    Umm the fusion happened so natural selection is relevant. There wasn’t any future outcome as the event occurred. Then somehow the fusion became fixed. why?

    NS simply filters out phenotypes that are less successful in the current environment.

    Actually NS is supposed to be a designer mimic, but yes it is really only a result and whatever is good enough gets through the filter.

    And about science, you don’t seem to understand what science is.

  36. timothya:

    Has it occurred to you that the fusion event might be one of the things that caused the divergence between the chimp and human lineages?

    Yes, but that is NOT what is being said. I am just going by what evolutuionary biologists have said. Perhaps you should read up and stay current.

    The current evolutionary thinking is that the split occurred and THEN came the fusion.

  37. timothya:

    There is all that supporting evidence about the contents of of the human chromosome 2 that map onto the unfused chromosomes in the chimp lineage. But that isn’t really evidence, is it?

    Evidence for a common design.

    What you don’t know is how many mutations were required for the transformation, when those mutations occurred nor what effect they had. And on top of that you don’t know if any amount of mutational accumulation can get teh job done.

  38. Joe posted this:

    The current evolutionary thinking is that the split occurred and THEN came the fusion.

    In principle this sequence of events is possible, but what cites support your contention?

  39. The fusion is only in humans- perhaps you should just read the literature. It’s all in there.

  40. timothya:

    Specifically, natural selection does not favour any particular future outcome (hint: NS is not teleological).

    NS is not teleological.

    NS simply filters out phenotypes that are less successful in the current environment.

    NS is teleological.

    Just brilliant.

  41. Hi timothya,

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate meaty questions, and I’m glad you asked me some.

    First, I’d like to clear up the issue of common ancestry. You wrote:

    I’m sorry, but on my reading, your post means that you do contest the common ancestry of the ape clade (including humans). If natural processes (according to you) are incapable of generating the observed variety of current ape types, then something other than common ancestry must have been involved.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    Of course, I believe that “something other than common ancestry must have been involved.” I’ll explain why below. When I say I believe in common ancestry, I simply mean that I believe there was a creature (possibly Proconsul) who was ancestral to all living apes and humans. However, I believe that God engineered key steps in the evolution of the human lineage.

    You ask:

    What was this something? When did it happen? In what way did it happen? Where can we find evidence of these non-common-ancestry events? By what agency?

    The “something” that took place was the intelligent engineering of the human genome, and it seems to have happened in four phases: 3.5 million years ago, 1.8 million years ago, 700,000 years ago and 200,000 years ago. The articles I’m relying on for my information are the following:

    Evolution of the Brain in Humans – Paleoneurology by Ralph Holloway et al., The New Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Springer, 2009, pp. 1326-1334.

    Neural correlates of Early Stone Age toolmaking: technology, language and cognition in human evolution by Dietrich Stout et al., Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, Biological Sciences, 2008 June 12; 363(1499): 1939–1949.

    The First Appearance of Symmetry in the Human Lineage: where Perception meets Art (careful: large file!) by Dr. Derek Hodgson. In Symmetry, 2011, 3, 37-53; doi:10.3390/3010037

    Paleolithic public goods games: why human culture and cooperation did not evolve in one step (abstract only available online), by Benoit Dubreuil, in Biology and Philosophy (2010) 25:53–73, DOI 10.1007/s10539-009-9177-7.

    Holloway et al. write:

    At least two important reorganizational events occurred rather early in hominid evolution, (i) a reduction in the relative volume of primary visual striate cortex (PVC, area 17 of Brodmann), which occurred early in australopithecine taxa, perhaps as early as 3.5 MYA [million years ago - VJT] and (ii) a configuration of Broca’s region (Brodmann areas 44, 45, and 47) that appears human-like rather than apelike by about 1.8 MYA. At roughly this same time, cerebral asymmetries, as discussed above, are clearly present in early Homo taxa, starting with KNM-ER 1470, Homo rudolfensis.

    The first change suggests that the relative reduction in PVC was accompanied by a relative increase, most likely in the inferior parietal and posterior temporal lobes. Exactly what selective forces led to this shift can only be guessed, but following the archaeological record of stone tool development at roughly 2.6 MYA, these changes are perhaps best explained as a response to an expanding ecological niche, where scavenging, some small game hunting and a vegetarian food base necessitated a more complex appreciation of environmental resources, as well as social behavioral stimuli within foraging hominid groups. A positive feedback model for these and other interacting variables was suggested by Holloway [15,16].

    Certainly, the second reorganizational pattern, involving Broca’s region, cerebral asymmetries of a modern human type and perhaps prefrontal lobe enlargement, strongly suggests selection operating on a more cohesive and cooperative social behavioral repertoire, with primitive language a clear possibility. By Homo erectus times, ca. 1.6–1.7 MYA, the body plan is essentially that of modern Homo sapiens – perhaps somewhat more lean-muscled bodies but statures and body weights within the modern human range. This finding indicates that relative brain size was not yet at the modern human peak and also indicates that not all of hominid brain evolution was a simple allometric exercise…

    … The only difference between Neandertal and modern human endocasts is that the former are larger and more flattened. Most importantly, the Neandertal prefrontal lobe does not appear more primitive.

    Despite the lip-service given to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution in the article, I’m inclined to think that the two changes described by Holloway et al. were the product of engineering. The explanations proposed by Holloway et al. are “teleological” (the changes occurred in response to ecological changes, or to selection pressure favoring the evolution of language). Explanations like these tell us “why” but not “how.”

    We also forget that the human brain is the most complex machine known in the universe. We know that random changes plus non-random “selection” are not enough by themselves to create a pattern or a function. As Professor William Dembski puts it in Conservation of Information Made Simple:

    It’s easy to write computer simulations that feature selection, replication, and mutation (or SURVIVAL writ large, or differential survival and reproduction, or any such reduction of evolution to Darwinian principles) — and that go absolutely nowhere. Taken together, selection, replication, and mutation are not a magic bullet, and need not solve any interesting problems or produce any salient patterns.

    If someone wants to argue that random copying errors plus non-random death are sufficient to make a brain with new cognitive abilities, I shall demand evidence before I believe such a claim.

    The best “evidence” I’ve seen to date is this paper:

    Moving primate genomics beyond the chimpanzee genome by Morris Goodman et al., in TRENDS in Genetics, Vol.21 No.9, September 2005. The essay disappointed me with its vagueness. A quote:

    There are several cases of darwinian evolution afforded by genes that encode brain-important proteins [11,28,29,31–35]. These cases, unlike the semenogelin case, occurred at relatively high frequency on the anthropoid lineage that eventually gave rise to humans. This appears to correlate with the fact that encephalization progressed further in anthropoids, especially so in humans, than in other primates. Several representative cases might serve to illustrate the darwinian evolution that possibly is associated with the process of encephalization. These cases involve phylogenetic comparisons carried out for each of the following genes: ASPM (abnormal spindle-like microcephaly associated), MCPH1 (microcephalin) and COX8 (cytochrome c oxidase subunit 8). These genes are not brain-specific, although ASPM and MCPH1 are thought to have their largest phenotypic impact on brain anatomy. Because certain mutations in MCPH1 apparently cause severe reductions in brain size (microcephaly), Evans et al. [34] and Wang and Su [35] suggested that the molecular evolution of microcephalin could have contributed to the brain expansion. COX8 encodes one of the many protein components in the machinery for aerobic energy production. Cytochrome c oxidase itself contains 13 different protein subunits, nine of which show bursts of change within the Anthropoidea but are slow evolving in nonanthropoid lineages [29,36]. It has been suggested that darwinian evolution optimized the biochemical machinery required to satisfy the rapacious need anthropoid brains have for aerobically produced energy [28,36]. In addition to the evidence for positive selection, several recent studies have focused on differences and similarities in gene expression in the brains of primates (e.g. Refs [37,38]).

    The authors didn’t probe deeply enough. How many protein components are involved in energy production? Would the changes need to have occurred in a particular sequence, or would they have been beneficial independent of the sequence in which they originated? What about the nine cytochrome c oxidase subunits which showed bursts of change? Did these changes occur independently of one another, or did they need to be choreographed? We don’t know. “Darwinian evolution must have done it” is the authors’ mantra.

    Next, I’d like to look at tools. Stout et al. (2008) discuss the cognitive requirements that went into making Oldowan tools (which first appeared 2.6 million years ago) and Acheulean tools (which appeared shortly after the emergence of Homo ergaster/erectus, about 1.7 million years ago). The cognitive demands involved in making Oldowan tools don’t seem terribly rigorous. Acheulean tools demand a lot more careful co-ordination and sequencing, but can still be made without the need to mentally rehearse what you’re going to do. In other words, they don’t require truly human mental capacities.

    … expert Oldowan toolmaking performance depends more upon enhanced sensorimotor representations of the tool+body system than upon stored action semantics of the kind recruited by normal subjects planning the use of everyday tools (Johnson-Frey et al. 2005)…

    The activation of right inferior PFC [prefrontal cortex - VJT] (BA 45) during Acheulean toolmaking is of particular interest because PFC lies at the top of the brain’s sensory and motor hierarchies (Passingham et al. 2000) and plays a central role in coordinating flexible, goal-directed behaviour (Ridderinkhof et al. 2004). Thus, PFC activation during hand axe production probably reflects greater demands for complex action regulation in this task. Ventrolateral PFC (vlPFC) in particular (including BA 45) seems to be involved in associating perceptual cues with the actions or choices they specify (Passingham et al. 2000), particularly when these actions are subordinate elements within ongoing, hierarchically structured action sequences (Koechlin & Jubault 2006). This underlying function may help explain the apparent overlap of language and praxis circuits in the inferior prefrontal gyrus. It is also consistent with the distinctive technical requirements of hand axe making, which include the skilful coordination of perception and action in pursuit of higher order goals (figure 3). In contrast, hypothesized dorsolateral PFC and ACC ‘action planning circuit’ activation was not observed. Dorsolateral PFC has been associated with the prospective (Passingham & Sakai 2004) monitoring and manipulation of information within working memory, and is commonly activated in tasks that separate planning from execution (e.g. Dagher et al. 1999; Johnson-Frey et al. 2005). The activation of ventrolateral, but not dorsolateral, PFC indicates that Acheulean toolmaking is distinguished by cognitive demands for the coordination of ongoing, hierarchically organized action sequences rather than the internal rehearsal and evaluation of action plans.

    So with Homo ergaster/erectus, it seems we are on the threshold of humanity, but not quite there yet.

    Hodgson (2011) argues that later Acheulean handaxes have distinctively aesthetic features – in particular, a concern for symmetry. See especially the handaxes in Figure 1 on page 40, which dates back to 750,000 years ago – either at or just before the time when Heidelberg man emerged. Here’s a relevant quote:

    The makers of later symmetrical Acheulean handaxes, although not fully aware of the significance of symmetry, were at least sufficiently alert to begin to respond to its attributes in a way that did not completely rely on preattentive processes. This indicates that the symmetry of Acheulean tools was first exploited on a purely practical/functional level after which a non-functional interest became apparent that arose out of the demands of the perceptual system as embodied in the early visual cortex. The fact that the first glimmerings of an “aesthetic” concern occurred at least 500,000 BP in a species that was not fully modern (either late Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis) suggests that the aesthetic sensibility of modern humans has extremely ancient beginnings. This propensity, however, was based on a predetermined sensory bias that engendered feelings of pleasure [102] that eventually led to what Dissanyake [103,104] has termed “making special” or “artification”, and is a conclusion that supports the long held belief of Oakley [105] and others [106] that some Acheulean tools were concerned with more than just functional considerations. (p. 47)

    Finally, I’d like to focus on changes in the prefrontal cortex that took place about 700,000 years ago, with the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis (Heidelberg man), and in the temporoparietal cortex, with the emergence of modern Homo sapiens, about 200,000 years ago. The authors argue that Heidelberg man, because of his enlarged prefrontal cortex, was capable of delayed gratification and of putting himself in danger for the sake of realizing group goals (e.g. hunting a mammoth with wooden spears, which would have been a very risky enterprise) as well as long-term goals (e.g. raising a family). After Heidelberg man, no further enlargement of the prefrontal cortex took place. Humans were fully capable of long-term planning even 700,000 years ago. Instead, the braincase became more rounded, and finally, around 200,000 years ago (give or take 100,000 years), the capacity for symbolic art emerged. Here’s the abstract of Dubreuil’s article:

    …This article argues that cooperation and culture did not evolve in one step in the human lineage and that the capacity to stick to long-term and risky cooperative arrangements evolved before properly modern culture. I present evidence that Homo heidelbergensis became increasingly able to secure contributions form others in two demanding Paleolithic public good games (PPGGs): cooperative feeding and cooperative breeding. I argue that the temptation to defect is high in these PPGGs and that the evolution of human cooperation in Homo heidelbergensis is best explained by the emergence of modern-like abilities for inhibitory control and goal maintenance. These executive functions are localized in the prefrontal cortex and allow humans to stick to social norms in the face of competing motivations. This scenario is consistent with data on brain evolution that indicate that the largest growth of the prefrontal cortex in human evolution occurred in Homo heidelbergensis and was followed by relative stasis in this part of the brain. One implication of this argument is that subsequent behavioral innovations, including the evolution of symbolism, art, and properly cumulative culture in modern Homo sapiens, are unlikely to be related to a reorganization of the prefrontal cortex, despite frequent claims to the contrary in the literature on the evolution of human culture and cognition.

    Here’s a quote from Dubreuil’s paper:

    This article focuses on a specific population of large-brained hominins, generally regrouped under the label Homo heidelbergensis, which lived in Africa and Europe between about 700,000 and 300,000 years ago and which is thought to be the common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Neanderthal (Rightmire 2004). My objective is to show that, although there is no evidence of the most definitive traits of properly human culture in this period of human evolution (e.g. symbolism, art, cumulative culture), Homo heidelbergensis was able to stick to very demanding
    cooperative arrangements in connection with feeding and breeding.
    The fact that such behaviors appear in our evolution much before art or symbolism, I contend, implies that human culture and cooperation did not evolve in one step. Consequently, understanding their evolution implies integrating more specific data about the evolution of the brain and behavior in extinct hominins. (pp. 54-55)

    …In sum, nonhuman primates have some capacity for inhibitory control, but there is still an impressive cognitive gap between them and humans. All normal human adults succeed in the “less is more” task after a few trials, even when the reward is salient. This flexible and powerful inhibitory control is necessary to secure everyday participation in long-term and often risky cooperative projects. To be sure, longterm and risky cooperation can be mutually beneficial but only if our partners have the capacity to resist the temptation to make defection. Think of founding a family or of starting a business. How many opportunities for defection are there before the venture really becomes rewarding?

    As for affective evolution, there was certainly a point in our lineage when our ancestors evolved human-like executive functions. Here again, the question is how such a change would have impacted on hominin behavior and what kind of neural rewiring might have accompanied it. We know that the prefrontal cortex plays a central role in executive functions. The dorsolateral cortex, more particularly, one of the latest maturing parts of the prefrontal cortex in children, is associated with inhibitory control and goal maintenance in all kind of social tasks (Sanfey et al. 2003; van ‘t Wout et al. 2006; Knoch et al. 2006). I explain in [the] Section “Brain evolution and the case for a change in the PFC” why I think that a change in this part of the brain can be parsimoniously linked to the behavioral evolution found in Homo heidelbergensis. (p. 57)

    Paleoanthropological evidence points toward a major reorganization of social life during the Mid-Pleistocene. I have argued that the kind of PPGG in which Homo heidelbergensis engaged implies modern-like capacities for representing and ascribing value to abstract goals, as well as for inhibitory control and goal maintenance. This suggests that hominins became capable of securing contribution in risky and long term cooperative projects much before the appearance of behaviors generally presented as the pinnacle of human cultural creativity (e.g. art, symbolism, cumulative culture)… I now want to argue that what we know of brain evolution also supports the link between Homo heidelbergensis’ cooperative abilities and a reorganization of executive functions realized in the prefrontal cortex (PFC).

    There are serious and well-known limitations to the reconstruction of brain evolution. The functional organization of the brain cannot be read in fossils. Endocasts provide no information on the internal structure of the brain, and what we know of the outer layer of the cortex is drawn from a handful of specimens. Our conclusions must thus remain relatively modest. Consequently, I will not claim that there has been a single reorganization of the PFC in the human lineage and that it happened in Homo heidelbergensis. I will rather contend that, if there is only one point in our lineage where such reorganization happened, it was in all likelihood there. By contrast, if there were many phases of reorganization, this one was most probably centered on the dorsalateral areas of the prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). (p. 64)

    …[E]ncephalization in Homo heidelbergensis is significant in both relative and absolute terms. Absolute brain size in this group ranges between 1,100 and 1,400 cm^3 and, despite the persistent difficulty of estimating body size for many specimens, EQ [encephalization quotient - VJT] enters the range of variation found in Neanderthals and Homo sapiens (5-6.5) (Rightmire 2004)…

    Besides size, some structural differences have been documented between the frontal lobe of humans and nonhuman primates, but these differences are for the most part related to size and are likely to have evolved along with encephalization. Rilling (2006, p. 73), for instance, argues that the human PFC is proportionally larger than that of apes because the non-prefrontal parts of the frontal lobe (the primary motor and premotor cortices) did not benefit equally from encephalization. Similarly, Semendeferi et al. (2001, p. 232) argue that the frontopolar cortex, the most anterior part of the PFC, associated with complex planning, benefited more from encephalization than other areas. Other distinctive features of the human frontal lobe include a higher level of cortical folding (gyrification) and a higher proportion of white matter, two features that suggests increased connectivity and functional differentiation and that probably also evolved along with encephalization (Rilling 2006, p. 72; Schoenemann et al. 2005; Schoenemann 2006).

    The argument in favor of a functional reorganization of the PFC in Homo heidelbergensis is thus supported by different lines of evidence: the evolution of new public goods, the presence of the most important phase of encephalization in human evolution, and the fact that the most specific features of the human prefrontal cortex are related to size. I do not claim, however, that there was no reorganization of the PFC earlier in human evolution. (p. 65)

    The relative stability of the PFC during the last 500,000 years can be contrasted with changes in other brain areas. One of the most distinctive features of Homo sapiens’ cranium morphology is its overall more globular structure. This globularization of Homo sapiens’ cranium occurred between 300,[000] and 100,000 years ago and has been associated with the relative enlargement of the temporal and/or parietal lobes (Lieberman et al. 2002; Bruner et al. 2003; Bruner 2004, 2007; Lieberman 2008). (p. 67)

    The temporoparietal cortex is certainly involved in many complex cognitive tasks. It plays a central role in attention shifting, perspective taking, episodic memory, and theory of mind (as mentioned in Section “The role of perspective taking”), as well as in complex categorization and semantic processing (that is where Wernicke’s area is located). Although there is little doubt that these areas underwent functional and structural changes during human evolution, and although paleoneurology suggests that a change in these areas was concomitant with the evolution of modern Homo sapiens, the discussion remains quite open regarding the exact functional and neuronal changes that might have led to the evolution of the modern mind. This discussion will have to give a central role to the archaeological reconstruction of behavior.

    I have argued elsewhere (Dubreuil 2008; Henshilwood and Dubreuil 2009) that a change in the attentional abilities underlying perspective taking and high-level theory of mind best explains the behavioral changes associated with modern Homo sapiens, including the evolution of symbolic and artistic components in material culture. (p. 68)

    The big question is: was the emergence of symbolic consciousness 200,000 years ago merely icing on the cake, or was it the final change that made us fully human? I incline towards the former view. If you look at the handaxes people were making 750,000 years ago, you can already see aesthetic traits. Moreover, Dubreuil believes that Heidelberg man must have already had a capacity for language, and he certainly had a fully human capacity for long-term planning, long-term commitment (rearing a family), delayed gratification and self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice for the sake of group goods would also require some sort of theory of mind, so it must have been present in Heidelberg man. Thus I would be inclined to see the changes that took place 200,000 years ago as a refinement rather than a fundamental change. I’d guess that for the first time, humans became able to personify objects, and endow the forces of Nature with a mind (animism). That’s very useful for artistic creativity, but I wouldn’t view a being lacking such an ability but possessing a capacity for long-term planning as sub-human.

    Nevertheless, I’m also inclined to think that these most recent changes, which occurred 200,000 years ago, were also the product of design.

    Well, I hope that answers your questions, timothya. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, to date.

  42. timothya:

    1. Can you provide any evidence that contradicts common ancestry of the great ape lineage?

    What would such evidence even look like?

  43. Mung:

    Teleology in biology is your gig, not mine.

    If you imagine teleology is involved in natural selection, then which is the intentional agent – the environment doing the selecting, or the organism whose variation is being selected?

    Mung also posted this:

    What would such evidence [that contradicts common ancestry] even look like?

    Evidence supporting a supernatural intervention, would be good for a start.

  44. timothya:

    NS simply filters out phenotypes that are less successful in the current environment.

    No, it doesn’t. NS is not some filter letting some things pass out of the container while keeping some other things inside the container.

    Organisms in a population which leave on average fewer offspring than some other organisms filter themselves out.

    Organisms which leave more offspring will be represented in greater numbers in future generations. That’s all there is to ‘natural selection.’

    And if NS is a filter, then it is teleological, since filters are teleological. All I’m pointing out is that you need to make up your mind about which version of NS you’re going to appeal to.

  45. 45
    Kantian Naturalist

    Rather than think of “natural selection” as some thing does the filtering, it’s better to think of natural selection as a name for the process whereby maladaptive traits tend to be less prevalent across a population. (Sometimes those traits are eliminated entirely, but often they aren’t.)

    Importantly, that’s consistent with the thought that organisms themselves are teleological, in a certain way. For what it’s worth, I highly recommend “Life After Kant: Natural purposes and the autopoietic foundations of biological individuality” by Andreas Weber and Francisco Varela, for those of you interested in teleology and biology.

  46. If teleology is involved then it ain’t natural selection. That is because NS is supposed to be a designer mimic, not a design mechanism.

    NS is nothing more than differential reproduction due to heritable random, as in chance events per Mayr in “What Evolution Is”, variation(s).

    However there can be differential reproduction without the “heritable random variation”. But only the first scenario is natural selection. Differential reproduction due to anything else is just the luck of the draw.

  47. Personally I think natural selection is teleological.

    http://philpapers.org/rec/WEBLAK

  48. Mung posted this:

    Personally I think natural selection is teleological.

    It is difficult to see how a sentient entity can think in any other way than personally.

    But if someone is able to convince themselves that inanimate processes have intentions, I can only suppose that he or she can anthropomorphise any number of unlikely things.

    Hence the notion of fiction.

  49. timothya:

    But if someone is able to convince themselves that inanimate processes have intentions, I can only suppose that he or she can anthropomorphise any number of unlikely things.

    hypocrite

    process:

    1. a systematic series of actions directed to some end

    teleological

  50. Mung.

    Do you use the term “directed” to mean “directed by an intelligence”?

  51. timothya is bummed because natural selection doesn’t do anything…

  52. vjtorley posted this:

    Of course, I believe that “something other than common ancestry must have been involved.” I’ll explain why below. When I say I believe in common ancestry, I simply mean that I believe there was a creature (possibly Proconsul) who was ancestral to all living apes and humans. However, I believe that God engineered key steps in the evolution of the human lineage.

    Fair enough, your religious beliefs are clear.

    You can subsume intelligent design into the concept of common ancestry if you wish. For me, it makes a nonsense of the idea. I would use the term “common ancestry” to include no more than the ordinary, observable processes of biological inheritance, reproduction and development. It is a stretch to include supernatural events, but it is your blog, after all.

    In any case, if we accept the notion that your God intervened in the course of human ancestry, how are we to tell when and where it happened? Is it only in the critical turning points? Or did God fiddle with all those parts of the human genome that have “function”, but aren’t conserved through inheritance?

    (By the way, you might consider whether the claim that “biochemical function” is ubiquitous in the human genome undermines the ID “needle in the haystack” argument).

    And this:

    . . . The “something” that took place was the intelligent engineering of the human genome, and it seems to have happened in four phases: 3.5 million years ago, 1.8 million years ago, 700,000 years ago and 200,000 years ago. The articles I’m relying on for my information are the following: [followed by a list of standard scientific papers]

    [For the benefit of readers, the "something" reference applies to a previous post of mine upthread]

    None of quotes from the papers that you provide claim that the ancestral human brain was intelligently engineered – that is an overlay based on your inclination in the direction of anthropomorphising natural processes.

    And this:

    Despite the lip-service given to the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution in the article, I’m inclined to think that the two changes described by Holloway et al. were the product of engineering.

    I acknowledge your inclination, I reject your version of events and substitute reality.

    The explanations proposed by Holloway et al. are “teleological” (the changes occurred in response to ecological changes, or to selection pressure favoring the evolution of language). Explanations like these tell us “why” but not “how.”

    1. Your use of “or” is misleading to the reader. Ecological changes (by definition) are changes to the environment in which the target species lived – that is, they represent the selective pressure that leads to evolutionary change. Whether the specific environmental changes led to the development of language as a consequence of genetic change in the ancestral species is unclear. Thus far we can go at present, but no farther.

    2. Your version of “teleological” when applied to biological processes is peculiar to this blog. It isn’t shared by any biologist whose material I have read, though I am prepared to stand corrected. If I understand you, “teleology” does not necessarily carry the connotation of “intention”. Correct me if I misunderstand your use of the term.

    And this:

    The authors didn’t probe deeply enough. How many protein components are involved in energy production? Would the changes need to have occurred in a particular sequence, or would they have been beneficial independent of the sequence in which they originated? What about the nine cytochrome c oxidase subunits which showed bursts of change? Did these changes occur independently of one another, or did they need to be choreographed? We don’t know.

    Cut the researchers some slack – they didn’t set out to answer the question you pose.

    But anyway, do we have any clues to whether “we don’t know” whether natural, undirected processes can generate novel protein synthesis pathways? By golly, we do know! . . . Lenski’s experiment demonstrates an example . . . and not only that, the mutational and selectional pathways involved have been specified, just in case we missed the improbabilities involved.

    In passing, Ann Gauger reportedly made a similar claim concerning her own research at a conference organised by the Discovery Institute.

    And this:

    The big question is: was the emergence of symbolic consciousness 200,000 years ago merely icing on the cake, or was it the final change that made us fully human? I incline towards the former view. If you look at the handaxes people were making 750,000 years ago, you can already see aesthetic traits.

    I can already see aesthetic traits, can I? You don’t need me to point out the notorious difficulty in deciding questions of aesthetic content. Your aesthetic inclination might be my functional necessitarianism. But your inclination is again noted.

    And this:

    Thus I would be inclined to see the changes that took place 200,000 years ago as a refinement rather than a fundamental change. I’d guess that for the first time, humans became able to personify objects, and endow the forces of Nature with a mind (animism). That’s very useful for artistic creativity, but I wouldn’t view a being lacking such an ability but possessing a capacity for long-term planning as sub-human.

    Nevertheless, I’m also inclined to think that these most recent changes, which occurred 200,000 years ago, were also the product of design.

    Are inclinations additive or multiplicative? Having reviewed standard scientific publications (none of which identify any intelligent design interventions in the history of human evolution), you remain canted in the direction of the design assertion. I remain unenlightened about method, mechanism, evidence or, most importantly, purpose.

    And finally this:

    Well, I hope that answers your questions, timothya. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten, to date.

    No, you haven’t. But thanks for the reading.

Leave a Reply